Big Idea

Start-up taps into gig economy and comes up trumps

Pracify connects gig workers, especially students, with companies looking for helping hands

Your parents have refused to send you money, and passes for your favourite music festival in Goa are selling fast. Or you want to save up for a new laptop but all you can land are unpaid internships. Or, whims aside, you want to start working towards financial independence early in life. Whatever the case may be, teens and young adults are always on the hunt for extra cash. Enter Pracify, a start-up connecting college students (in the 18-24 years age bracket) with companies looking for gig workers.  

The start-up is the brainchild of Shivam Malhotra, a commerce graduate from Delhi College of Arts & Commerce. In 2015, then 19-year-old Malhotra had started a Facebook page named DU Express to help college students with information on admissions and hiring. During this time, Malhotra got the opportunity to interact with various brands that were looking to work with college students, but “were unable to leverage them to their advantage”. Hoping to bring transparency into gig worker hiring, Malhotra conceptualised Pracify. “What we are going after is the traditional outsourcing model, which is a $3.5 billion market in India,” says Malhotra.

Built over the lockdown period, the app has garnered around 1,000 downloads and 18 companies have already signed up to list their jobs on it. Here’s how it works. Prospective workers enter details about their skills and interests to create an account on Pracify. Based on that, the app shows the various gigs available and the workers have to submit an application to be considered for a role. Once selected, they are provided training via videos uploaded by the company. The duration of the jobs, according to Malhotra, range from as short as 12 hours to a few months. When the job is done, the workers submit a proof of task completion online. The money is then deposited in their “Pracify Wallet” from where it can be transferred to their respective banks. This helps eliminate the extra burden of workers having to contact companies and vice versa. “It is a win-win situation for both,” says Malhotra.

When it comes to the sectors and types of jobs, while the app is in its nascent stages, Malhotra is looking at use cases in five areas of business — marketing, research, diligence, operations and business development. This includes tasks like content creation, user acquisition, lead generation, tele-calling, product sampling and testing, vendor acquisition, data transcription and customer onboarding.

Depending on the nature and duration of the work, Pracify sets a price which includes worker payout and anything between 15%-50% as the platform fee. During the beta phase, Pracify ran nine projects which earned them around Rs.2.7 million and the gig workers earned around Rs.1.4 million. According to Malhotra, there are youngsters who have earned as much as Rs.25,000- Rs.35,000 working four hours a day, five days a week for two months, all while in the comfort of their homes.

Of course, companies can look for gig workers directly to save on the platform fee, but the gig economy is a cumbersome process and lacks transparency, says Malhotra. “Companies usually work with hiring agencies that charge large fees, even when the work is not completed. But, we charge the companies only when the proof of completion is submitted,” he says, adding that they have also digitised the end-to-end process which saves several man hours of filling out, managing and organising paperwork.

With a funding of Rs.2.5 million from 100X.VC, the start-up is looking to acquire 1.5 million workers, execute 500,000 tasks and onboard another 75 companies in the next two years. By then, the platform will open up for everyone irrespective of their age, expand to Tier-II and Tier-III cities, and will also introduce the ‘stay-at-home mom' segment to the gig economy. And with that, Malhotra hopes to make revenue of Rs.160 million in FY22. With the gross service volume of gig economy in India, according to ASSOCHAM, expected to cross $455 billion by FY23, Malhotra’s hopes does not seem far-fetched.

In the long term, he says that Pracify isn’t looking to become another large corporate solution. “We want to empower even your neighbourhood kirana store owner to find an on-demand worker on Pracify,” he insists.